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What is a paediatric nurse?

There’s no doubt about it – interest in working in the NHS is now at an all-time high. Its profile, reputation and value to national society has been enhanced throughout the COVID pandemic – and with every justification.

Arguably, it’s never been a better time to start your career in this amazing profession. Yes, the work levels are high. Yes, there’s stress, but the status of nursing is sky-high. As a result, applications for university training places are up by 6% year on year.

Interested in pursuing a career in paediatric nursing? Here’s the top-line information about paediatric nursing you need to know.

What does a paediatric nurse do?

A paediatric nurse, or children’s nurse, works with babies, children, and young adults under the age of 18. Children’s nurses have a crucial role working in hospitals and in other settings too. Typically, they work in multidisciplinary teams alongside doctors (paediatricians), play staff, healthcare assistants, psychologists and social workers.
Your duties could include:

  • Assessing care needs, carrying out physical examinations, assisting with diagnosis, and developing treatment plans
  • Checking on your patients and recording key data
  • Understanding and responding appropriately to a child’s behaviour and reactions. This is particularly important when caring for very young children who can’t tell anyone how they are feeling
  • Administering medication
  • Performing a range of clinical procedures, including setting up life-saving medical/monitoring equipment, wound dressing and giving injections
  • Supporting, parents and carers as they deal with having a sick child in hospital and advising on care plans after discharge

What training is required and what are the entry requirements?

The main pathway is to get a university degree (via full or part-time study). Courses combine academic study with practical experience across different settings.

There are four different nurse specialisms to choose from, and if you’ve already decided to become a children’s nurse, you can opt for that. Some courses offer students the opportunity to study two different specialisms in parallel.

Entry requirements for an undergraduate degree are typically a minimum of five GCSEs at grade 4/C or above, possibly including English language or literature and a science subject. You’ll also need two A levels or equivalent level 3 qualifications. Some universities ask for three A levels or equivalent. If you already have a degree, you may be able to get into nursing via a postgraduate qualification. 

Learn while you earn

You might choose to do a nursing degree apprenticeship (NDAs) – an alternative, more flexible, route into nursing. NDAs combine part-time study at an approved education provider with a permanent job in healthcare. At the end, you’ll have a degree and full registered nurse status. At work, you can expect to be paid at least the minimum apprenticeship wage and your tuition fees will be covered by your employer. One day a week you’ll be free to get on with your studies.

Although the apprenticeship programme typically takes four years to complete, the system known as the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) means you could be fully qualified in just three years.

Once you’ve completed the course, either via university or apprenticeship, you apply for registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

Nursing associate apprenticeships are also available. This is another entry point; qualifying as a nursing associate can lead to a nursing degree or nurse degree apprenticeship and full nurse registration. 

Working as a children’s nurse in the Republic of Ireland (ROI)

If you’re a children’s nurse in Ireland, then your services are in great demand. Nurse retention has long been an issue. It’s even been reported recently that a new children’s hospital, part of the Children’s Hospital Group (CHG), is so short of trained medical staff that not all the beds will be available on time.

 If you’re a qualified nurse or midwife interested in working in the ROI, you’ll need to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI). More information is available from Nursing in Ireland – a website run by the Health Service Executive (HSE). To attract more staff into the ROI, the HSE is offering a relocation package to all successful overseas applicants.

 So what makes an excellent paediatric nurse?

Here are just some of the personal skills you’ll need to help in your career as a specialist children’s nurse:

  • Being caring, warm and compassionate – having empathy with patients and their families is vital. And the ability to maintain a degree of separation for the sake of your own mental wellbeing. Working with children can be an emotional rollercoaster
  • The ability to communicate with both young patients and their families/carers. Not everyone can do this well – it’s quite a skill
  • Staying calm when you’re working under intense pressure (including in an emergency)
  • Working under pressure, sometimes day after day, calls for endurance and stamina. Working as a nurse, particularly as a children’s nurse, is not like running a sprint – it’s more like fast-paced middle-distance hurdling with many challenges to overcome!

Roles with the Scottish Nursing Guild

We’re always looking for qualified paediatric nurses to join our team to work in temporary, last-minute placements in NHS, HSE and private hospitals. We also have lots of work available supporting children who live at home with complex health needs. You’ll need to work to our high standards, and in return, you’ll receive full professional support from us.

Check out the requirements to work with the Scottish Nursing Guild here.

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